Social media is extremely widespread and is penetrating every corner of the world at a record speed. It has been projected that by 2016, the total number of worldwide social media users would be 2.13 billion. An average American spends about 37 minutes every day on social networks and 46 percent of Internet users turn to social media when buying products and services, according to a study.

Social media has brought both challenges and opportunities for businesses, and every entrepreneur thinks impulsively that they know exactly how to use it for their new venture. However, most of them soon discover that that what they do on social networks in their personal milieu does not necessarily, or accurately, represent their business.

There is a steep learning curve to use social media for your business; that being said, it is not rocket science or anything too hard to master. So, here’s how new business ventures can use social media to win customers:

1. Kick off with big players

You should kick off your social media marketing campaign with the big platforms. Facebook dominates the social media sector with 1.55 billion users followed by LinkedIn with 400 million users. Twitter comes in third with 307 million users. You can start with these big 3 social media networks, but you should first make it certain that your target market uses these platforms. You can use the 5 Ws (what, who, where, when, why) to find answers to whether your target market is on any of these social networks.

2. Study your target market demographics

In this step, you would study your target market and try to come up with customer profiles. If you are sure that your customer base is already robust, you can then go ahead to conduct simple surveys to know what social networking sites they use and how you can reach out to them. Even better, you can create a blog to target your customers in subtle ways and without employing a sales pitch.

A new study suggests that 3 out of 5 small and medium sized enterprises say they have gained new clients by making social media part of their marketing strategy. Remember, an effective social media marketing strategy is always grounded in thorough study of demographics.

3. Craft an integrated social media strategy

Remember, social media does not function as a vacuum; it must be fine-tuned with your overall marketing strategy. You can make it part of your overall marketing plan, so it gets acquainted with the overall communication theme and works towards the same objective. You must make sure to integrate your social media pages with your website, promote them in your business events, make them part of your press releases, and post them on printed materials.

4. Make a social media commitment

Some people mistakenly think that social media is free. Social media is not free because it demands commitment of time, human resource, financial resource and specialized skills. You might think that ad hoc status updates from your Facebook page can be enough and that one of your employees can do it in his or her spare time. If you have that same opinion, then your social media marketing is doomed.

You need professional social media specialists to craft the plan and manage the campaign. You need to commit financial resources and a skilled team to help achieve your social media objectives. When done properly, professionally and seriously, social media can pay off, and you would be happy with the ROI.